JP, TD, AK and I assembled for the Fall 08' Rendezvous on a river that I would normally mention by name except that I don't think it can stand anymore attention.
Mid-October looked like opener.
The brand of angler that visits this stream (typically) have a top notch standard of etiquette... but, a busy stream is a busy stream. JP and I made the drive to the river on Saturday night. We set up our tents and had a few beers in the rain. Since K wasn't among us and since I'm not bright enough to remember a tarp, the rain fly that has become the trademark meeting point of these affairs was sadly absent. Thus, we got wet.
At 11:00 a Jeep Cherokee pulled into the campsite across from ours. At midnight it was still idling with it's lights on. TD said "He's probably passed out". And he was. Lights were on but nobody was home. The guy was out cold except that the heater was on in his truck and he was sweating like a pig on a spit. After a lengthy session of window tapping and yelling TD and JP finally got this guy out of his Jeep and sent him to bed. I watched all of this from a distance because I thought the guy deserved to run out of gas and overheat in the driver's seat.
An interesting event: At approx 3:30 am on Sunday morning as I lay in my 2 man Eureka Alpenlite XT, I was convinced (through the dimentia that a really good nightmare brings to it's creator) that I was inside of something (a tent, a car an igloo?) that was about to get crushed by another thing (a jumbo jet, an elephant a huge boulder ?) and decide that I needed to get out of the way. The chaos that ensued inside the nylon walls of my tent went unnoticed by the other two tents and their inhabitants. The physical exertion that my escape required was sufficient to bring me briefly out of my rigorous slumber. I looked around for a second and dropped back to sleep...for a while. At 4 am I decided that things weren't right and I turned on my headlamp to investigate. Damn. I didn't like the view from the inside. I unzipped and took stock of my reconfigured shelter from the outside. In an effort to get my igloo (?) out of the path of the oncoming jumbo jet(?), I had kicked the shit out of my tent. Stakes were pulled, poles were bent. The tent was an unusual shape, and not just because I was inspecting it in the 4 am blackness with an LED headlamp, shrouded in the fog of sleep with a side order of light rain. From 4 am to 5 am I straightened poles and restaked the tent. At 5 am I zipped my self back in my bag and slept until 7.
No additional Jumbo Jets presented themselves.
Sunday is a little easier to explain: We woke up, made coffee, strung up the rods and hit the river. I managed a 16"-17" fish out of the first run. Tough to say whether it was a resident or a jack. Either way, it doesn't really count because I caught him on the surface in the middle of trying to convert a roll cast into a forward cast. The indicator, shot and nymph were bubbling through the surface when this fish decided it was time. He ate it about 7' off my right knee. As a footnote, this is the first steelhead outing that I fished primarily using the dead drift nymphing method. Normally I'm a drift/swing kind of guy.
Anyway, later that morning I fished a corner pool that has been kind enough to offer up the steel in days gone by. And, as I had hoped, it fulfilled it's obligation. When I approached this bend in the river, another angler was just leaving. I asked him how he did and he said that he had a grab, but didn't stay connected. Ok. Good. The most confounding variable to this fish besides why won't they eat my fly, is are there any fish present where I am fishing? I need to digress for a moment and say something about steelhead.
I don't understand them.
Smallies crash bait and I can catch them on a deceiver. Trout eat beatis and a reasonably tied BWO on a slack line cast will fool them. Pike are generally eager to murder anything that taunts them. Bonefish think that your gotcha is a fleeing shrimp and chase it down and chomp it. Steelhead on the other hand are like many women in my life: Trained from an emotional or intuitive handbook that I have not read because it's out of print and rumored to be written in a foreign language (in invisible ink).
Back to the story...the fact that this chap actually got a nibble reduced the variables and gave me hope. I knew where at least one fish was at some point this morning.
The hope carried me through an hour of fruitless drifts until TD ambled up. I rested the pool and the bruised part of my brain that generates hope. TD asked me if I ever fished a Prince Nymph. Nope. He told me the story of a guy he met in the parking lot of this very river. The guy, as the story goes, emerged from the woods and approached TD mumbling about Prince Nymphs. TD, not having the specified pattern was left in the contrail of the guy on his way to the closest fly shop. "Hmmm" TD thought. Which is why he had a Prince Nymph in his box and offered it to me.
No, it wasn't the very first cast.
It was the third cast.
(Insert Hot Chrome Explosion Here)
15 minutes after I landed the fish, TD relieved me of my angling superiority by landing one of his own.
A short while later, hope renewed, I managed another. It stayed pinned for exactly 1/20th of a qualifying bull ride....most of that spent in the air.
The rest of the day was spent trying to discern a pattern where none exists. The river, like a talented burlesque dancer, had shown just enough flesh to keep me interested until the falling curtain of darkness called an end to the show.
The Bar. Burgers, beer, and some sports team playing another sports team on the box over my right shoulder. At some point TD and AK decided that a ping pong match was in order and they took to the table. AK, full of beer and down 2 games of table tennis, skipped up the stairs to the mens room and called back over his shoulder "Who needs dry firewood when you can spend the night in a bar?"
JP in perfect alignment
17 inches of "what the hell?"
"Dime Bag Bright"
The only photo op this fish would allow